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Schizophr Bull. 2006 Oct;32(4):724-42. Epub 2006 May 17.

Defining and assessing adherence to oral antipsychotics: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.


The definition and assessment of adherence vary considerably across studies. Increasing consensus regarding these issues is necessary to improve our understanding of adherence and the development of more effective treatments. We review the adherence literature over the past 3 decades to explore the definitions and assessment of adherence to oral antipsychotics in schizophrenia patients. A total of 161 articles were identified through MEDLINE and PsycINFO searches. The most common method used to assess adherence was the report of the patient. Subjective and indirect methods including self-report, provider report, significant other report, and chart review were the only methods used to assess adherence in over 77% (124/161) of studies reviewed. Direct or objective measures including pill count, blood or urine analysis, electronic monitoring, and electronic refill records were used in less than 23% (37/161) of studies. Even in studies utilizing the same methodology to assess adherence, definitions of an adherent subject varied broadly from agreeing to take any medication to taking at least 90% of medication as prescribed. We make suggestions for consensus development, including the use of recommended terminology for different subject samples, the increased use of objective or direct measures, and the inclusion in all studies of an estimate of the percentage of medication taken as prescribed in an effort to increase comparability among studies. The suggestions are designed to advance the field with respect to both understanding predictors of adherence and developing interventions to improve adherence to oral antipsychotic medications.

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